Profiling the Games' major backers. This week: BHP Billiton Projecting a positive image is a major challenge for mining companies for a variety of reasons - more so perhaps for the world's biggest and 2008 Beijing Olympics sponsor, BHP Billiton. Aside from high-profile, controversial and hostile takeovers, the need to balance corporate responsibility with the urge to expand globally in ecologically sensitive areas, BHP Billiton - which has provided the raw materials for all 57,000 Olympic and Paralympics medals - lacks an easily defined target audience. 'We are unique from the other sponsors as we don't have a consumer base [like Adidas, Coke, etc],' Clinton Dines, the company's China CEO, told an Olympic sponsorship event in Yunnan province . Without such a defined audience, BHP is instead treating families working at the Yunnan Aluminium Company to a one-day mini-Olympics. At such events, which are being held across the mainland in the run-up to the Games, several of China's past and present sports stars join BHP staff and help spread the excitement of the Olympics. As the 'Official Diversified Minerals and Medals Sponsor of the Games', the sponsorship contract offers unique awareness opportunities - plus a chance to show the gentler side of a vast company involved in the biggest mining takeover deal in history: its attempted acquisition of Rio Tinto. 'We have held a host of community activities throughout China and in regional areas around the world where we do business, to reinforce our commitment to the communities in which we operate, our customers and our people,' said Karen Wood, BHP's group executive and chief people officer, who also chairs the company's Olympic Sponsorship Steering Committee. 'So far more than 140,000 people have been through these programmes around the world. It has seen the creation of several opportunities for our staff around the world to be touched by the Olympic spirit through a range of reward and recognition programmes,' she said. Sponsorship of the Olympics also weaves effectively into the company's mainland and global business strategies, Ms Wood said. 'The rationale behind our sponsorship is wide-ranging ... demonstrating our ongoing support for China, our largest single market, and for the communities in many areas of the world in which we operate. Our Olympic programme also allows us to support our commitment to sustainable development at a local level by providing sporting equipment and infrastructure to assist with important health and education programmes.' The company sponsored the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and provided the silver for the medals and materials for the construction of Olympic venues, so it knows such sponsorship can lead to an increase in competitive positioning. 'Olympic association provides a number of positives for the company,' Ms Wood said. 'It will demonstrate our commitment to China's long-term development and its emerging role in the international community. China is an influential global player and represents an important growth market for our company. 'Our role provides a unique opportunity to highlight our position as the world's largest diversified resources company, with a world-class asset base.' It also adds some light relief from meetings with lawyers, shareholders and the media about the takeover of Rio Tinto and the fears it has sparked among the Olympic host China.